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PTR: 2800 miles through the South and up the Mississippi

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loving this report Larry. Nice of the casino to give something back. Nice to see you enjoying yourself. Hope I will meet up with you this year. (still going to ECB?)


EB - The casinos always give me something to attract me into the casino. They know that if I'm close I'll gamble. During this trip I only lost about a total of $150 in the casinos. Since they gave me $150 in free food and over $700 in lodging, I made out ahead.


Yes, I'll be at ECB, I just sent my check in last week.


To continue this report and before I write about Memphis BBQ, here are some of the sites I saw in Memphis. I stopped by Graceland but did not enter the grounds (as I'm not a huge Elvis fan) and then moved on to Sun Records. Although I didn't take pictures I also drove by Beale Street (but did not stop to explore the area), the old Libertyland site and the Pyramid, which Bass Pro Shops may be turning into an amusement park.


Here the entrance to Graceland. Entering would have dipped into more food budget and I probably would have been kicked out for making fun of the serious Elvis fans.


But I did go to the kitshcy strip mall next store that was filled with Elivs souvenirs.


Then I drove north to the legendary Sun Studio.


Where Elvis recorded his songs.

Edited by larrygator
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Memphis is a pretty neat town. I went through the Civil Rights Museum last time I was there which is inside the Lorraine Motel which Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated, and it was very interesting. I'm not a big history buff or anything but they have the room where he was shot still completely intact as it was that day and it was a pretty surreal experience, worth checking out if ever in the area.


I'm excited to see you Memphis BBQ pics, there are some great rib joints down there. One of these days I'm gonna make it to the Memphis in May BBQ Festival, it's one of the most prestigious BBQ competitions in America and is supposed to be pretty cool.

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What a fun trip report. Great pics, always happy to see someone include the food they experience on trips.


I am glad to see that Magic Springs has gotten its act together. A few years ago, the place was struggling with so many rides constantly down; people were getting very dissatisfied with the place.


There is just something right with ice cream in a freshly made waffle cone on a hot, humid day. Looks so good.

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Where's the beef? Actually you'll get no beef in this update. It's the Memphis BBQ Challenge. It's my challenge, so it's my rules.


For consistency: I had to choose one menu item that is universal in the BBQ realm.

For my budget: I had to choose an economical item.

For my wasitline: I had to choose an item that was not going to split my pants with repeated meals.


The choice was a Small Pulled Pork Sandwich which spicy BBQ sauce. I also don't like slaw, so I ordered without slaw. Lastly, I didn't eat most of the bun as I really wanted to limit carbs. I actually took a small bite out of each bun and they were all pretty much the same. Someone needs to serve their Pulled Pork sandwich on Texas Toast.


I did a quick search online and came up with 12 BBQ joints that I wanted to target. I could not make all based on limted time. Also, quite a few of the BBQ joints close early.


The challenge is on.


This is Payne's. A family run place in a shady neighborhood run by a mother and son combo.


Here's the menu.


This place is no frills all-the-way.


and that's the kitchen. Some online reviews said don't bother eating inside, this is a place where you eat on the hood of your car.


So I did. But here I made my first mistake and forgot to order with no slaw. So I had to scrape the slaw off. But since I wasn't eating the bun it was no big deal.


Next up was Central BBQ.


Here's the menu


Much more polished look inside, reminded me of Pierce's Pit in Williamburg, VA


During the school year I hear a lot a college students stop by to eat.


and there's the contender. I also got a sweet tea while I was there.


The third stop on the first day was Tops. Tops has become a chain in Memphis, I think I stopped at the original location.


The smoker out front.


Menu inside


Front Counter. I was given a tip to ask if they had fresh skins (whatever that is) but I forgot.


Just the sandwich folks


The second day started with Neely's Barbecue.


The Neelys have a show of Food Network, they're more into catering now that is a little more upscale, but I'm here for the Pulled Pork.


The menu


This was the only BBQ joint that did not offer a spicy BBQ sauce.


The only other stop this day was Corky's On this day I was heading back the the hotel for a Steak Dinner so I didn't want to ruin that meal.


I will admit I have had Corky's BBQ sauce before as someone bought me a bottle in the Memphis airport years ago.


It was a 45 minute wait for a table and I didn't have a lot of time so I took an empty seat at the bar, the sheriff's after me after what I did to his daughter. And here's the food, I also got an order of hush puupies and a Sweet tea. Corky's is the nicest looking BBQ joint I visited.


Although I was getting Spicy BBQ sauce on my sandwich I was intrigued when I saw Apple flavored BBQ sauce. It thought I would hate it but I loved it.


Third day of BBQ started with Jim Neely's Interstate BBQ. Ed is the uncle of the owner of the other Neely Barbecue joint. Besides my online search I asked people everywhere I went on this trip what they thought of Memphis BBQ, Central, Interstate and Rendezvous were the two names that everybody mentioned.


Here's the inside. Sorry, I didn't get a photo of the menu board.


And there's the sandwich and a sweet tea. Neely's was very liberal with there BBQ sauce. I also wanted to get a Sweet Potato Pie, but time was tight as i was heading straight to the airport after my third stop of the day.


The 7th BBQ joint of the trip is The BBQ Shop, again no menu board.


This was the best looking sandwich to me, because it was the only one that came on toast. The sweet tea here was the best. Unfortunately this is the only place that messed up my order as there was a little bit of slaw on my sandwich. Luckily the waiter suggested I get the hot BBQ sauce on the side, because it was more like a chinese hot oil and needed to be used sparingly.


With less than 2 hours til my flight the last stop was a quick to go order. I planned to eat it at the airport. Unfortunately the slow moving line did not allow me to order. There were 15 people ahead of me when I got on line and 10 minutes later they were still 12 people in front of me. Next time I'll phone in the last take-out order. Of course, after I check-in at the airport my flight gets delayed 2 hours, so I would have had plenty of time. For the record Jim Neely's Interstate and Corky's both have restaurants at the airport. I'll post my rankings after you all have time to digest the photos.

Edited by larrygator
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I found it kind of funny that the bbq joints in Memphis advertise Memphis style BBQ on their marquee. Great report so far though, I'm interested to see your results. Personally it would have been hard for me to compare different pulled pork if I didn't have all of them sitting in front of me. The best sandwich for me probably would have been the most recent.

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so I took an empty seat at the bar, the sheriff's after me after what I did to his daughter.

Huge win here, Larry. I have to ask though, was there a wiffle bat involved?


LOVED this report. I'm not a fan of spicy stuff, but the pulled pork was definitely a great choice. I'm anxious to see if my international rule of thumb for great BBQ holds true - the crappier the place looks, the better the food is.


I found it kind of funny that the bbq joints in Memphis advertise Memphis style BBQ on their marquee.


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Ah Memphis BBQ so many choices, so many flavors. Personally I wasn't a fan of the TV Stars BBQ but Uncle Interstate, yummy. I have this book marked to remind me of some of the places I thought about trying but passed on. Thanks for making me hungry!


Oh, next time you are in memphis might I suggest also trying www.leonardsbarbecue.com/ lunchtime seems to be the best and the catfish is out of the park.

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Personally it would have been hard for me to compare different pulled pork if I didn't have all of them sitting in front of me. The best sandwich for me probably would have been the most recent.


So true, I really should have taken notes, but honestly this ended up being done on a whim. I planned to visit 2-3 places during the trip, but I arrived at my hotel early the first night giving me trim to venture into Memphis, then left Magic Springs early enough to visit more places and since I had an 11AM check-out and 2PM flight I realized I could squeeze a few more places in.


There were a couple of other places I wanted to try:

Charlie Vergos Rendezvous (was not open during the day when I was leaving, also heard they are more into dry rub versus the wet sauce)

A&R BBQ (heard about it too late to include)

The One and Only BBQ (just didn't have time)

Germantown Commissary (just didn't have time)


How many times did you have to use the bathroom on your flight?!?!


Only for Number 1


This is an epic report. Loved all the food photos. Probably wouldn't have eaten at the Neely's place, since their show makes me want to kick my television.



Dave - I never even heard of them before stepping into their joint.

Edited by larrygator
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Thanks for the report - I'll have to remember some of these places when I'm in Memphis next month.


I've been to Rendezvous, Central, and a few others.


I'm not much of a ribs fan, but I love pulled pork sandwiches.

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I agree that the Bar-B-Q Shop's sandwich looks best. I had my first pulled-pork-on-toast experience last month, and I was surprised that the crunchy texture really did add to the sandwich. Did you actually get to see pigs dance?


Too bad you missed Rendevouz; that was my favorite restaurant in Memphis when I was there a few years ago. Blues City Cafe was pretty good, as well; I especially liked their fried pies.

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I have to tell you the truth, for the most part the pork had similar taste and texture, it was the BBQ sauce that separated the field.


Payne's: A+

This no-frills joint epitomizes what I expected an legit BBQ place to look like. But beyond looks the pulled pork delivered and the hot BBQ sauce had just the right combination of taste and hot.


Corky's: A

If I was trying to impress a date, this is the joint I would go to. Very lively atmosphere and although I was only ordering Pulled Pork this place had the most diverse menu. Beyond the pulled pork, bonus points for Sweet Tea refills, hush puppies and an incredible (as weird as it sounds) Apple BBQ sauce. Extra sauce in multiple flavors is readily available to place on your sandwich (or sides).


Central: A

Lively counter staff, free refills and a great atmosphere. Extra BBQ is easily accessible at each table


BBQ Shop: B+

Even though they forget to hold the slaw, they get bonus points for serving their pulled pork on toast. Their sweet tea (with free refills) was also the best sweet tea of the tour. Forget super saturated, this tea was super saturated with sugar. They also had the hottest BBQ sauce, it was actually more of a hot oil to add to your BBQ sauce.


Interstate: B

I was not happy that they did not offer a spicy BBQ sauce, but they did apply the most liberal amount of BBQ sauce to my sandwich. While I enjoyed the pulled pork I did not enjoy my waitress disappearing for 10 minutes when I was looking for the check. This is the only place I tried dessert as I loved Sweet Potato Pie and it delivered


Neely's: B

While there was nothing wrong with the sandwich, it just didn't wow me.


Tops: B-

Again nothing wrong with the food, but the dining area was a little dirty. Also the only place where the counter people just seemed to be going through the motions


Cozy Corner: grade incomplete. I wish the line didn't move so slowly. Actually, I really wish my flight delay had been announced earlier to allow me to try this place and squeeze in another joint.

Edited by larrygator
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This Memphis BBQ challenge is a great idea. Liz & I have been talking about doing something similar both in Memphis and in KC for a while now. We've got a layover in MEM next month and plan to hit Interstate and Corky's. While the airport locations might not be as good as the real locations, I'm sure they beat Famiglia pizza or most airport food in general.


Probably wouldn't have eaten at the Neely's place, since their show makes me want to kick my television.


So what effect does Sandra Lee have on you then?

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^I'm convinced she's hammered most of the time she's doing her show, so that's at least something. I really don't watch her as I'm pretty sure I've mastered putting together a cake from a box mix.


The Neely's are still the least appealing people on Food Network. Though there are some even worse shows on Cooking Channel...



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I've always wanted to judge a food contest of some sort, I think it would be a blast. It was a lot of fun reading your results.


I have to tell you the truth, for the most part the pork had similar taste and texture, it was the BBQ sauce that separated the field.


Every time I watch a BBQ competition show on tv (BBQ Pitmasters or whatever) this is usually the case with most of the pulled pork entries. Very little difference between competitors in the pulled pork category, the ribs and chicken seem to be where they really make their impressions on the judges.

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